THERE was a time when every High Street would have a gentleman’s retailer, with polished wooden counters and must-have accessories like tie pins and bowler hats immaculately presented behind polished glass displays.

The High Street is of course a wholly different place now, and traditional outfitters are a boutique rarity rather than the norm.

But it was harking back to these key tenets of the traditional gent’s outfitters – style, quality and value – that inspired Peter Christian.

Operating from an industrial estate in Small Dole, the medium has changed to catalogue and online-based retail – but the commitment to those old traditions remains.

So the discerning gentlemen can get his moleskin, corduroy and linen trousers – and the piece that helped launch the business, the classic chino.

There are Tattersall shirts, Oxford shirts, Tweed suits, Harrington jackets, cardigans and knitted waistcoats.

And its big-selling nightwear has become something of online sensation thanks to the knowingly camp modelling of Steve Pound, who has something of the Old Spice man about him in his full-length stripy nightgown, a captain’s hat and binoculars. Ad campaigns in the Daily Telegraph and Private Eye have given Steve a dedicated hashtag #nigthcapman and swooning from columnists India Knight and Hadley Freeman, who said “It is no exaggeration to say this man is my favourite model in the world.”

But for Peter Christian co-founder and managing director Nicholas ‘Lord Trousers’ Alderton, there’s a personal mission behind the business.

“The British male has always been repressed with his clothing choices”, he said, from his office in the Mackley Industrial Estate.

“They were restricted to navy blue and dull greens. But in the last ten years the middle aged man has found a new adventurousness. They've started wearing red trousers and Green Harrington jackets.

“They’ve really started to express themselves which was a mission with the business.

“People call in and say, thanks you so much for allowing us to buy monocles and bright silk scarves!"

Nicholas, who runs the business with his wife Miranda and son Max, boasts a family heritage in clothing going back five generations to the 19th century.

His uncle ran Aldertons the Tailors, a successful London outfitters specialising in men’s Plus Fours, until all eight shops went up in smoke one fateful night during the Blitz.

But while his mother said he always had a penchant for dressing up and sporting a fancy hat, he admits his fashion sense stalled during his hippie years, when he was a committed Deadhead, a fan of the psychedelic rock band the Grateful Dead.

"My wardrobe was pretty limited", he said. "At one point I'd been wearing the same jumper for pretty much three years and Miranda threatened to divorce me if I didn't go out and buy some new clothes."

Heeding her advice, he went out shopping in London’s West End in the likes of Paul Smith and Demob and was soon hooked on British style.

Nicholas and Miranda worked successfully for a family menswear business for several years before going out on their own with Peter Christian in 2004.

“We started off selling footwear,” he said. “We though clothes, shoes, it’s all the same.

“But we couldn’t get our heads round it. We were going to go broke quickly so we had a big sea change and went back to menswear.”

Miranda had built up valuable contacts in factories around the world from her previous role, and it enabled Peter Christian to make smaller more manageable orders than the big names like M&S.

And while mail order had traditionally been associated with a cheap race to the bottom, they followed Boden’s example and pitched a higher end product.

While rivals made big discount offers, Peter Christian played it straight, building a trusted brand and loyal customer base.

With 400 products on sale, Peter Christian sent out around 150,000 products last year.

And after 12 years in Small Dole, where Peter Christian occupies 12,000 sq ft of warehouse space, the company is looking for a bigger home in West Sussex with as much as 20,000 sq ft to satisfy its growth ambitions.

While the UK will always be a key part of this growth plan, one avenue being led by next generation Max is America.

The eccentricities of British menswear has plenty of appeal in American, particularly among African-American men looking for a colourful, preppy, Golfer type look, such as Outkast’s Andre 3000.

During a recent visit to a American for a fashion expo, Lord Trousers was mobbed by fashionistas enamoured with his top hat and flamboyant suits clothes, an experience Max likened to “walking around with a beautiful woman”.

Max, marketing manager at the company, said: “We found we were getting loads of web traffic coming from the states and we realised if we had a sharper online presence over there we would see more sales.

“Also with Brexit and the fall of the pound it is really attractive for us to be trading in dollars.

“There’s also a new law coming in that any e-commerce transactions under £800 to the US go tax free, so it’s a really attractive market for us.”